On Thursday 10th July, the Stage 6 route ends at Reims, the coronation site of the Kings of France and one of the ‘Martyr Towns’ of WW1. Stage 7 on Friday 11th July departs from the Place de la République, at the bottom of the Avenue de Champagne at Epernay, champagne capital of the world, and passes through the riverside town of Chalôns, through the Argonne, and continues westwards to Nancy.
The region is preparing to welcome visitors with a programme of activities based around the largest sporting event in the world. The 2014 Tour has special significance as the routes pass by several major WW1 battlefields during this Centenary year, including the Battle of the Marne sites in Champagne-Ardenne. The Ardennes and northern Marne were under German occupation with the heavily fortified Front Line running north of Reims and through the Argonne. French & Allied troops were engaged in trench warfare and fierce battles here have left many cemeteries and memorial sites, with interpretation centres & guided routes a lasting reminder of the strategic importance of the region.
The battlefield memorial sites of the Marne are exceptionally suited to cycling tourism with large, flat plains and easy gradients. The region has more than 450kms of cycle paths covering 5 major routes along the Meuse Valley, through the Ardennes and the Marne to the Orient Forest & Lakes.
The network of cycle paths and recommended cycling routes and circuits have been organised by the regional tourist board and the region’s 4 départements: “La Champagne à vélo” and “Les Ardennes à vélo”. These labels also identify places where bicycles can be rented as well as cyclist-friendly accommodation, assuring a warm welcome. Ranging from small hotels to gites and chambres d’hôtes, these affiliated establishments offer special guaranteed services. Tourist information, secure bike storage & cleaning facilities, laundry, nutritional breakfasts, early starts, picnic lunches on request, dining on site or nearby plus other optional services too.
Information about the cycling routes, accommodation and other useful details can be found in a handy pocket guide in English which can be downloaded from the tourist board’s web site or from the following link: www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/wpFichiers/Documentation/149/Cycling-routes-and-Greenway.pdf
Tourist brochures, interactive maps (French site only) and suggested itineraries are also available from the web site: www.tourisme-champagne-ardenne.com/balades/balades/velo/a-velo.aspx
Here are a few suggestions for cycling-friendly breaks around Reims & Epernay:
Discover the champagne vineyards of Verzy and Verzenay with escorted cycling tours in English from April – October. 5 different circuits are offered including a Reims tour & champagne visit, vineyard tours and cellar visits . Rates from €40 pp for 2 – 12 people. www.lechappee-bulles.com
Stay in Reims and explore the surrounding vineyards and battlefield sites and the 40kms Montagne de Reims circuit. Charter member chambres d’hôtes www.aucoeurdesvignes.fr overlooks the vines outside Epernay with doubles from €72 , or base yourself in Reims at 3* www.hoteltambour.com from €86 B&B with a delightful pool & terrace, close to the station.
Bikes are carried free on all TER trains in the region. Reims is just 2½ hours drive from Calais, or 45 minutes by TGV (high speed rail) from Paris.